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Keller's regional champ

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CHAMP'S HUG: Clinton Central's Kolt Keller, right, hugs his mother Charity Keller after leaving the mat as the North Montgomery regional wrestling champion at 285 lbs. on Saturday.
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GETTING AWAY: Frankfort's Elijah Anthony works to escape the grasp of Carmel's Suhas Chundi in the regional final at 106 lbs. Anthony lost the match by decision, but will advance to the New Castle semi-state with his second-place finish.
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FOCUS: Frankfort's Josue Bautista finished fourth at the North Montgomery regional and is one of three Hot Dog wrestlers advancing to semi-state, along with Elijah Anthony and Zeke VanDeventer.
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SEMI-STATE BOUND: Clinton Prairie's Caiden Maish, right, lost his third-place match to Westfield's Sam Medlen, but became the first Gopher wrestler to advance to semi-state in at least eight years by taking fourth.

BY ANDREW KRULL - akrull@ftimes.com

Clinton Central's Kolt Keller continued his state tournament march winning the North Montgomery regional as a heavyweight on Saturday, with Clinton County sending four other wrestlers with him to next Saturday's New Castle semi-state.

“The county did really well,” Frankfort head coach Richard Sallee said. “I'm really happy with moving three of the six kids (from Frankfort) on to the semi-state, especially after last year where we didn't get to take that trip to semi-state.”

For the Hot Dogs, freshman Elijah Anthony (who finished second at 106 lbs.), freshman Josue Bautista (who finished fourth at 113) and senior Zeke VanDeventer (who took third at 182) will compete at semi-state, while Clinton Prairie's Caiden Maish moved on with a fourth-place finish at 195.

The big story on Saturday came from the biggest weight class as Keller followed up last week's sectional championship with a regional title. He beat a familiar foe in Carmel's Jonathan Williams, who he beat in last week's final by major decision, to claim the regional.

“It feels good to keep going,” Keller said. “It's what we worked all season for and we just need to keep the train going.

“You don't count your eggs before you get 'em in the basket, you know what I'm saying. (But) it's just a stepping stone. We're just going to keep moving and keep wrestling hard and hopefully you'll see us at Bankers Life (in Indianapolis).”

On Saturday, Keller noted that he hadn't looked to any potential opponents from the other three regionals that make up the semi-state.

“I take it one match at a time,” he said. “Whoever is in front of me is who I'm wrestling. I don't look ahead. I haven't really looked ahead to see anybody else I might wrestle.”

Keller is the first regional winner from Central since Jeff Scott at 170 lbs. in 2014.

“With Kolten Keller, the more he wrestles the better he gets,” Bulldogs head coach Austin Faulkner said. “He realized a week ago that he's the real deal and now I think he believes he's the real deal. His work ethic has improved. His attention to detail has improved and we're going to make a run and we'll see what happens next weekend.”

Central took two wrestlers to regionals and Faulkner was happy with the performance all-around.

“We brought two and unfortunately got one through,” he said. “Tallon Surber has had a great career. He won 32 (matches this year at 132). He makes our top 10 win list all-time in the school's history. I don't know what number he is at, but I know he's a top 10 kid in wins. I think he finished his career at right at 120 wins for his career.

"Unfortunatley, it just didn't go his way today,” Faulkner added of Surber, who qualified for semi-state two years ago. “He wrestled well I thought.”

Clinton Prairie broke a longer drought without a semi-state wrestler.

“We've got one going to semi-state, Caiden Maish at 195,” Gophers head coach Joey Mitchell said of the senior. “He finished fourth here today, which is good. We're happy for him. We're going to keep working to see if we can get to the next level.

“Clinton Prairie hasn't had a semi-state qualifier in probably eight or nine years. It's been a while. Caiden's the first one in several years. The first one that I've coached. He's definitely come alive. He started the season off not very good and he's just turned it up at the right time and we'll take it.”

Mitchell wasn't disappointed in his other wrestler at regional, Sean Patrick, but was with the circumstances that eliminated him from moving further in the tournament.

“We should have had two going,” he said. “I'm usually not one to complain about the officiating, but there was a very poor, poor call at heavyweight and it lost us the match. Sometimes that happens, there's nothing you can do about it.

“(Patrick) came out and had a really good first match, but unfortunatley it just didn't go his way. They called an illegal headlock after a takedown and took the points back on it. It's a judgment call made by the official. I disagree. I don't think there was an illegal headlock there. The official did. It's his call; it's his decision, not mine.”

Mitchell felt the call could have swayed the decision as “it changed the tempo of the match, it changed everything. At the end of the day, you can't leave it in the official's hands. You've got to take care of business and Sean knows that.”

He believes his sophomore, who has only wrestled competitively for two years, has a bright future.

“He's young,” Mitchell said. “He'll learn and come back strong.

“He's only a sophomore and he was just a couple minutes away from being a semi-state qualifier as a sophomore. It's only his second year wrestling. He's catching on quick and getting a little bit better every day. I think next year for sure he's going to make a deep run and I wouldn't be surpised to see him wrestling down at Bankers Life before it's all said and done. He's that good.

“I think we had a good day of wrestling. I'm proud of Caiden and I'm proud of Sean for making it. We'll get another good week of practice and go on down to semi-state and see what we can do.”

Sallee wasn't only proud of the efforts by his wrestlers from Frankfort, but of the whole county in general. He highlighted that the results show how difficult the Frankfort sectional is in comparison to North Montgomery, the other sectional entering the regional.

“It's been a really good day moving five kids out from our county,” he said. “I mean our sectional's a little bit tougher than Crawfordsville's is if you look statistically. As long as you place fourth (at sectional), you have a really good chance. One of our fourth place kids (at sectional), Zeke (VanDeventer), gets to move out as a third, revenging a match at conference against the Southmont kid.

“I'm pretty excited about that (getting three Frankfort wrestlers out) especially with two of them being freshmen and the reward of a hard-working senior with Zeke getting to move on and finalize his senior year with at least a semi-state and hopefully a state championship trip.”

Frankfort last had a semi-state qualifier two years ago when Dallas Davis and Corbin Mata qualified. Freshman Elijah Anthony (26-2) lost for only the second time this season, losing in the regional final to Carmel's Suhas Chundi, who he lost to in last week's sectional final. In this match, Anthony tied it at 2-2 early in the second period after an escape point, but Chundi took control late to win a 7-2 points decision.

“With our sectional being pretty tough and Zeke coming (to the regional) as a number four and he's a number three here, it speaks volumes for the Frankfort sectional,” Sallee said. “It's tough to have those four big schools, with Carmel and Westfield, Hamilton Southeastern and Fishers (at the sectional), but if you can get in that top four you are going to see somebody from a smaller school where you've got a really good shot of moving on … I don't know the exact statistics but we're probably at 70 percent from the Frankfort sectional as advancing to the semi-state.”

He noted next Saturday's format will be similar with individual wrestlers needing one more win than this week to advance to state.

“So next week, the goal is to win those first two matches, match one first obviously,” he said. “Just try to get those two wins so you get a chance to go to the big dance in Indianapolis.”